I’m not much of one for nature in large doses, normally. I spend far less time enjoying the great outdoors than I’d like. Or like to admit, for that matter. Wellington has been my home for four years now, and even before then I was always drawn to cities far more than small towns or rural spaces.
Since moving away from Hawke’s Bay I’ve found a new attraction to this place where I grew up. When I come back here now, particularly in summer, I find a kind of calm and happiness that the bustle of the big smoke could never provide. It’s tinged with nostalgia, too: only after leaving home have I realised just how much of me is nestled in these rolling brown hills, under this enormous curve of sky. The dry heat, the wide flat streets, the way the grass is sandy and brittle at this time of year. The shape of the land where I used to walk at night. The pond where my friend and I would sit for hours listening to Porcupine Tree and laughing at the ducks. The beach where my first boyfriend and I ate chicken and chips on a bright cold winter day, were divebombed by seagulls and forced to abandon our food. Heretaunga Street, where my friends and I used to wander just like everyone else our age ever did and does and will: aimless bored teenagers with no money, sharing energy drinks and half-price sushi at 3pm on another flat Saturday. Shops and streets and spaces that tourists roll through in these hot months, but for me hold memories that are intrinsically part of who I am.
On New Year’s Eve, Luke and I went for a walk up Te Mata Peak. We both forget that this place is where we first knew each other, and where we spent our high school days, angsty and whiny in the heat. It’s strange but refreshing to come back in our twenties after reconnecting in Wellington, to feel like sightseers in our own hometown. Sometimes I don’t think I’ve come that far since high school, but coming home reminds me that I am so much more experienced and independent than I was then. I’m starting to consider myself an adult now, in some ways. In others, I’m much more of a stupid gleeful child than I was in my early and mid teens. I’m much more willing to run around smashing into things, hurting myself and learning practically from my mistakes. It’s nice to be back under this dry heat, to enjoy it and find it beautiful and feel brand-new. It’s a relief.
This year, I hope I get away from Wellington more. I hope I spend more time out walking, alone or with friends, in places other than Lambton Quay and Courtenay Place. City streets filled with people can be some of the loneliest places to be. On the walking track up the peak, everyone we ran into said hi and smiled at us. We were all out doing the same thing. We were all getting away from that. Walking under soft ground for a bit. Feeling unbearably, wonderfully small as we looked over the Heretaunga Plains. As we stood under this endless blue bowl sky.